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Greg Grinsfelder joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school, serving in Iraq.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - St. Helens resident and U.S. Army veteran Greg Grinsfelder served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.The horrors of Sept. 11, 2001, convinced St. Helens resident Greg Grinsfelder that it was time to join the Army and serve his country.

He just had to wait a few years first to do it.

Grinsfelder grew up in Delaware. He recalled that as a kid, he would always like to play army in the woods with his brother, Michael, and the neighborhood kids. Little did he know that the world was about to turn on his head.

"When I was in the eighth grade, September 11 happened," Grinsfelder recalled. "I remember sitting in my history class and wheeling in a TV set for us to watch when the second plane hit."

Shortly after the school loudspeaker informed students that parents would pick them up, he knew the gravity of the news.

Grinsfelder graduated in 2006. The "war on terror" was at what he figured was its height, with U.S. forces battling to tamp down insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I just knew I was going to serve," he said. "When I was 18, my senior year of high school, I joined the military on the delayed-entry program."

Because of the job Grinsfelder chose in the military, he left for Fort Knox, Kentucky, for what is known as "one-stop unit training," an eight-week training program that's different from the Army's basic training.

Before being deployed to Iraq in September 2008, Grinsfelder was sent to Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska, then to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California.

In Iraq, Grinsfelder served in a province a little northeast of Baghdad, close to the Iranian border.

He served a year in the Middle East as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, eventually being assigned as a gunner.

"I was in Bravo Troop, Second Platoon — I was a gunner on a Stryker, which is an armored vehicle," Grinsfelder said. "I was in charge of our vehicle. I was on the fourth truck out of a four-truck platoon. I took on that responsibility."

Grinsfelder described how combat duty could change from day to day.

"It's a weird thing because when you first get there, it's kind of like sensory overload," he said. "You're hyper-vigilant."

Grinsfelder continued, "We rolled out every day, so we were outside the wire every day, in sectors (where) tensions are high."

That sensation faded and later, Grinsfelder added, they were replaced by something more dangerous.

"Midway through your deployment, complacency sets in, and you're like, 'Man, this sucks," he said. "It's super-hot and miserable."

Grinsfelder noted that about a month or two before going home, he felt that heightened sense of alertness again. He wanted to return home at the end of his tour of duty.

Grinsfelder avoided injury in Iraq, although his convoy was shot at a few times, he remembers.

"Luckily, we never hit an IED," he said, referring to the improvised roadside bombs used by insurgents in Iraq. "We would take random potshots as we drove through town. … The rules of engagement at that point were, 'If you're getting potshots, keep on going.'"

Today, Grinsfelder lives in St. Helens and works at Dealers Market, a car dealership in Scappoose.

Speaking of his service in the Army, Grinsfelder said, "It's not for everybody. I have no regrets."

He added, "I served, and no one can take that away from me."

As to young people interested in joining the armed services, Grinsfelder said, "I think it's a great opportunity. It will give you discipline."PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Greg Grinsfelder works at Dealers Market in Scappoose.

Editor's note: This story appears in 2022 Salute to Veterans, a special publication in print and online by Pamplin Media Group to celebrate the stories of veterans.


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